Editors’ Comment: This is the second story from Mike Fanelli on the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the U.S. Olympic Trials. We thank Mike Fanelli for his writing, and his photos, courtesy of the Track Garage, the iconic sanctuary of athletics housed in the garage of Mike Fanelli. In this column, Mike Fanelli pays tribute to the decathlon, and two of the great American decathletes, Russ Hodge and Bill Toomey.
Precisely one half century ago this week, the United States Olympic Track and Field Team was deep into the throes of a selection process better known as ‘the Trials.’ In an effort to replicate the lofty 7,350 feet of the host Olympic site, Mexico City, it was determined that the US Team should be chosen while competing under similar conditions. Therefore, the longest distance representatives (marathon, 20K walk, and 50K walk) would endure their selection process in the 7,543 foot mountain air of Alamosa, Colorado, while the track and fieldsters would be chosen in breathtaking confines, just above a cerulean colored Lake Tahoe, California.
Echo Summit is perched at the base of a ski run in the Eldorado National Forest at some 7,370 feet above sea level. Solely and exclusively for this one event, a state of the art 3M ‘Tartan’ track was built amongst the Ponderosa pines and randomly parked granite rubble. Oft times throughout the duration of this multi-day competition, athletes would virtually disappear from sight behind said natural elements.
Toomey’s prodigious efforts resulted in a then yearly world leading performance of 8222 impressive points, while Rick Sloan etched 7800 for silver and Tom Waddell nailed down his ticket to Mexico in 7706.